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Tips On How To Stay Safe And Warm During The Texas Winter Storm

A snow plow travels down a snow-filled road.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
/
AP
Snowplows works to clear the road during a winter storm Feb. 14 in Oklahoma City. Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S. on Sunday, prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into areas as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast, where snow and sleet were expected.

A rare winter storm is pummeling Texas with a mix of snow, ice, freezing rain and sleet. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

On The Road

AAA Texas offers the following tips:

  • Make sure your headlights are on.
  • Reduce your speed and leave plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • Do not use cruise control on any wet, snow-covered or icy roads.
  • Be aware of possible icy roads. Be especially careful on bridges and overpasses, which freeze sooner than roads. And even at temperatures above freezing, if conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  • Be careful on infrequently traveled roads, which may not be cleared as often as other roads.

Additional driving safety tips:

  • Use your seatbelt every time you get in the vehicle.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage. In fact, modern vehicles do not require idle time prior to driving.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.

And if you must pull off a road, “wait for a safe opportunity and pull off the road as far as you can.” Also, it’s best to pull into a rest area or parking lot, rather than on a road’s shoulder, AAA Texas says.

How To Reduce Electricity Use

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is asking consumers and businesses to reduce electricity use through Tuesday:

  • Turn down thermostats to 68 degrees.
  • Close shades and blinds to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.
  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances.
  • Avoid using large appliances like ovens and washing machines.
  • Businesses should minimize the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible, ERCOT says. And the agency says large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential production processes.

Stay Warm If The Power Goes Out

The National Weather Service offers these tips:

  • Close blinds or curtains to keep in heat.
  • Close off rooms to avoid wasting heat.
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.
  • Eat and drink, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Heating Tips

The American Red Cross offers these heating and safety tips:

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (things like paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Do not place space heaters on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord. Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.

  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles to prevent accidental fires.
  • If using a generator, keep the device outside, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent build-up the home. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately.

Preventing Frostbite And Hypothermia

What is frostbite?

“Frostbite is a type of injury caused by freezing. It leads to a loss of feeling and color in the areas it affects, usually extremities such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes,” the CDC says. “Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation (removing the affected body part).”

Signs of frostbite

If you notice redness or pain on your skin, “get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning,” the CDC says. Other signs include numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.

Treatment

Get the person into a warm space quickly and seek medical attention.

What is hypothermia?

“Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures,” the CDC says. “When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.”

Signs of hypothermia

In adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness; in babies: bright red, cold skin; very low energy

Treatment

Get the person into a warm space quickly and seek medical attention.

Sources: AAA Texas; ERCOT; National Weather Service; CDC; American Red Cross